So I know this is coming about 4 weeks late and everyone has already done their bit about 2016 –  but having taken a fortnight holiday to reflect, I came to realise how much 2016 gave me. Whilst the world of politics pretty much turned upside down – my personal journey of 2016 was pretty revolutionary too!

2016, was the year of the liquid diet. It seems mad to think that this time last year I was going through tests which would eventually lead me to making the steroid vs liquid diet decision to get my Crohn’s Disease  back under control. I had absolutely no idea that decision would have such a major impact on not only my quality of life, but also in finding something I’m insanely passionate about! This blog was born out of the trauma and need for some distraction during my month of not eating – I’m not sure A Belly Full Of would ever have come to being without it!!

Without that liquid diet, I never would have become the food blogging- instagramming lover that I am today. I would never have cut my pain levels in half and I would never have realised quite how much my lifestyle and food was affecting my health. To look back at my liquid diet journey – check out the ‘Liquid Diet Diary’ tab at the top!

But it wasn’t just the liquid diet that made 2016 amazing. 2016 was the year I finally got my Journalist job title

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First piece to camera on coffee – obvs

and started working on stories across the globe for a huge British broadcaster. It was also the year of my first on screen appearance – on a food related story, obvs.

2016 was the year I travelled halfway across the world to Bali (read my Bali tips here!) – the furthest I’ve ever travelled and something I’ve always been quietly nervous about, in case of something going wrong with my health! Obviously nothing happened and I gained some incredible food inspiration from across the world – and learnt so much about their amazing culture.

2016 was the year I ran my first ever 10k – having always been a self proclaimed exercise hater (I still am, and I won’t even deny it!) Another massive personal achievement for me, having always found vigorous exercise extremely painful on my stomach. I completed the 10k in 1 hr 11 mins AND raised over £1,400 for Crohns & Colitis UK (I probably should note here that I genuinely haven’t run since then…!!)

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 And last but certainly not least, 2016 was the year I learnt to meditate. This was an extremely important personal feat for me, having identified later last year that my stress was severely affecting a flare up of my symptoms. The London Meditation Centre, with the amazing Jillian & Michael, taught me the art of vedic meditation and whilst this is something I am still working on to absolutely nail and get my forty minutes in every day, I have already felt a difference in my stress levels, my approach and outlook to life and a drop in my pain levels when I’m consistently meditating.

So I am going into 2017 with fire in my belly and so many more ambitions for this year. It just goes to show how much can happen in a year! Whilst all this was incredible – I still had some health ups and downs and have come into the new year on another medication for a short while. Life is nothing short of surprises – but it’s amazing how much better I feel having made changes on MY TERMS. My gastro consultant and team are truly amazing, but nobody has ever sat down with me and suggested these simple changes that have made such a staggering difference. I’m going into 2017 feeling like Crohn’s no longer owns me.

Watch out for much more to come on A Belly Full of this year…!

For more of my updates, you can catch me on Instagram & Twitter.

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January is the month of new years resolutions. ‘Eat less cake’, ‘don’t eat chocolate’, ‘eat more vegetables, ‘lose weight’…. the list could on and on. Whilst I whole-heartedly support all efforts to get your health back on track post Christmas, I often find these kind of New Years resolutions a silent trap. They are unrealistic and will inevitably make you feel completely demotivated when you don’t see them through by the second week of Jan. What I would suggest is making a few simple changes to help get your health back on track. Easy steps to leave you feeling happier, healthier and most importantly – motivated!

  1. Exercise

Yes, I’m going straight in with this one. Get yourself back in the gym! This is the first sure way to get you feeling healthier post Christmas season. There are so many ways to get that body moving. First of all – find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy!20x30-BRIT1658 Take up a new yoga class, try out zumba, go swimming or go for a run in your local park. Trying something you’ve never done before is an excellent way to reignite the exercise excitement! I’m going for yoga this January!  Why don’t you take a friend with you? Combining a bit of social and encouragement is another way to spice up your exercise routine. Finally – why not purchase some new gym gear?! Try some colourful leggings or new trainers… going shopping always seems to motivate me..!

  1. Rethink your diet

Rethinking my diet was one the most positive things I ever did and I feel so much better for it every single day. Often we eat the same things out of habit – but this January I challenge you to evaluate what you put in your body! What things could you eliminates and replace with something healthier? Perhaps it’s your sugar filled coffee, love of biscuits or tendency to graze on processed snacks. There are so many gorgeous vegetables in season in January – including iron filled kale and vitamin packed carrots. Why not crisp your kale up with some olive oil in the oven for a healthy snack or dip carrot batons in humus. There are so many delicious herbal teas, which act as cleansers (green tea or peppermint are particularly good – I adore Pukka teabags). Whatever it is – I challenge you to find an alternative for your guilty pleasure this January.

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Cutting out gluten and dairy has completely rejuvenated my quality of life 

  1. Pledge to learn 3 new healthy recipes

In hand with the previous point, I urge you to get yourself in the kitchen and get creative! Get out that recipe book you’ve never looked at or use your imagination! Perhaps you could go for one meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetarian dish. Or maybe a breakfast, lunch and dinner! However you decide to do it – make sure you do the following. Replace your olive oil with coconut oil – it has less trans fats and cholesterol. Use at least two vegetables or fruits in your dish and a good source of protein. This could be meat, fish, tofu or beans if you’re a vegetarian. Try to avoid hard carbs – opt for sweet potato or a grain.
Try my Cinnamon Rice Flake PorridgeCrispy chicken with garlic greens & creamy mash or The super stir fry.

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The super stir fry! So easy and delicious

  1. Give social media a break or a cleanse

We live extremely hectic lives – all of us, every day. We work super hard ALL THE TIME!! and the pressures of day-to-day life can be further exaggerated by the constant access to the internet and social media. Perhaps it’s not something you realise is impacting your life, but why not giving social media a break for a few days? You might find you have more time for yourself and others if you’re not distracted by the online world. You might be surprised by the results…

  1. Look after your skin

The cold winter weather can be extremely harsh on the skin. Low humidity and brisk winter chills can leave skin feeling dry and chapped. Look after your skin this January by making sure you exfoliate at least twice a week, finding a face wash that works for your skin and remembering to moisturise twice a day! Make sure you keep hydrated to keep your skin from drying out – this could be from drinking water or eating vegetable with high water content, like cucumber, celery, orange or watermelon. Try whizzing up one of these in a smoothie for a morning boost!
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bryonyhopkins

Everyone has his or her own perception of ‘veganism’. It is thought almost 500,000 people are vegan in the UK alone – with many more thousands across the world. Lot’s of people recently have been asking if I am a fully fledged vegan now and whilst I am not (I still enjoy eggs, fish, honey and white meats), I have come to understand and enjoy vegan food so much more. The dictionary states a vegan is a person who does not eat or use animal products – and whilst this is true, there are so many layers to this meaning and different types of vegans. I am not a full time vegan, but I eat so many vegan dishes and have been astonished at how amazing the flavours can be. Jamie Oliver’s vegan shepherd’s pie is just to die for!! Not to mention the vegetable curries, salads and stews I’ve added to my recipe repertoire.

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Jamie’s vegan shepherds pie.. uh-mazing!!

But what does ‘vegan’ really mean and is it for you?! I’ve put together a (objective!) list of ten things to know about veganism – the good, the bad and the ugly.

  1. There are three main reasons people choose to go vegan. The primary reason often originates from opinions on ethics of animal sourced products and the belief that animals should live freely without human interference.
  2. The second reason for choosing the vegan life is for health reasons. Studies have shown that eating animal fats and proteins increases a person’s risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease and a number of other illnesses. Eating vegan is also a 100% cholesterol free diet – which is a great pro if you want to lower your cholesterol. With the rise in clean eating and prominent food bloggers releasing delicious vegetable alternatives, you don’t have to look far to see the benefit people are feeling.
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    Vegan matcha latte – so natural and delicious!

  3. The third reason is going vegan is actually incredibly good for the environment. Livestock farming takes up a huge amount of resources, including land, fertilizer and water. It is thought a significant amount of pollution in groundwater and rivers is from animal waste from farms and many argue that more people could be fed globally from the land if we were all vegan.
  4. Veganism often encompasses more than just what you eat, it comes down to the products you use too. Veganism isn’t just what you eat; it can be an entire lifestyle choice. Vegans will look for cosmetics and toiletries that are vegan, organic and haven’t been tested on animals.
  5. You can easily tweak meals to make them vegan! There are so many alternative recipes out there, so you can still cook your favourites for you and your family. Try a vegetable filled stir fry with garlic, ginger and chilli on rice noodles – or replace your meaty spaghetti Bolognese with quorn. Try replacing your morning fry up with avocado, toast, tomatoes and grilled mushrooms or whizz up a refreshing smoothie. So many possibilities!
6. Going vegan can actually be very cost effective. If you go back through your food shop receipts, you will notice that meat and milk based products are the most expensive. Reducing this cost may give you more money to spend on other things – perhaps a little treat!
7. Most restaurants do vegan alternatives – either marked on the menu itself or you can enquire with the staff. With the growing number of vegan, you’ll be surprised what is on offer when eating out. ALL of the below is vegan from various cafes and restaurants!
8. Vegans don’t eat honey – and also many gummy sweets, due to the gelatine content!
9. It’s vital to make sure you’re making up for the lost nutritional content when going vegan. Read up and find the vegan friendly products than contain the following: iron, amino acids, vitamin D, vitamin A, omega 3 and vitamin B12. Lacking in any of these could have serious impacts to your health.
10. Albert Einstein was a vegan. Yes, Albert was a vegan! He famously said ‘nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.’ Now there’s something to chew on…!
 
Whilst it is a lot to go wholly vegan overnight – I would actively encourage you to explore some vegan options. Think how many fruit and vegetable you could pack into your body, in just one portion! img_1729
 
 
 

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The festive season is the perfect chance to try some new treats and goodies – and this spiced cookie recipe is a total winner. They are completely gluten free, sugar free AND vegan too! I promise they do actually taste delicious. These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week, so they make a perfect Christmas offering at a party. Pop them in a festive box as a little present – or keep them for yourself… just try not to eat them all at once!
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Ingredients:
200g ground almonds
180g rice flour
95ml maple syrup
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
Some icing to decorate! I used pre made tube icing from a regular supermarket 
Equipment
Mixing bowl
Wooden spoon
Rolling pin
Weighing scales
Sieve
Baking trays
Baking parchment
Fun or festive cookie cutters
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Method

  1. Pre heat the oven at 180C and cover a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a bowl, ass 100ml water and mix into a sticky dough forms. Make sure you sieve the flour!
  3. Cover a worktop and a rolling pin with rice flour and get your dough mixture onto the surface. Roll out into a 1-2cm thickness and completely smooth.
  4. Use your chosen cutter to cut as many cookies as you can from the mixture and place on your baking tray.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Check around 15 minutes and leave for longer if needed.
  6. When baked, remove from oven and leave on baking tray until cool.
  7. Now time to get creative! Decorate with your desired pattern and let the icing set.
  8. Enjoy with a hot drink! Perfect dipped in hot chocolate – yum!!

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Amigos! I’ve been on the prowl again for more delicious vegan, vegetarian and gluten free places to eat in the capital and these really are delish. Due to working ridiculous hours in the office (it’s been a busy news time!), I have been having to eat away from home more than I would usually prefer – but with these simple eateries right on my doorstep, I have little to complain about!
Squirrel
Price: £

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The interior is such a winner at Squirrel – love these barrel dispensers of herbal tea

Based about 2 minutes from South Kensington, Squirrel has a casual salad bar vibe with the most amazing treehouse interior. When I arrived to meet a couple of friends for dinner, the place was packed out for what looked like a health and fitness talk – which just goes to demonstrate what kind of place Squirrel is! The best part of this place is having the ability to build your own salads and warm bowls – although the menu they have put together with names like ‘Kale Yeah’ and ‘Prawn Star’ is definitely enticing! As it was dinner time in autumn I was in the mood for a warming meal, so went for the Miami Rice, which was delicious. I washed the meal down with a turmeric latte (my first ever!) and a gluten free, vegan rocky road – which again was very tasty. Unfortunately, my friends ordered two turmeric lattes which didn’t tastevquite right, and the waiter in this instance left little to be desired in terms of customer service – but in the end the lattes were swapped with green tea. Despite this, I would still definitely return – and for £7 a plate, I think the price is unbeatable for that quality organic produce.
The Good Life Eatery
Price: ££
The Good Life Eatery is a much loved favourite of many London food bloggers and once I visited, I understood why. With a few stores dotted across central London, I went to the cafe in Sloane Avenue – just a short walk from South Kensington tube station (other way to Squirrel!). This place has a great menu – a combo of raw dishes and warming bowls. I went with a friend, who went for the classic Good Life Salad, packed with raw goodies, whilst I got the veggie ‘In a Hurry Curry’.
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Delicious spread at Good Life Eatery

We ordered at the counter and then found ourselves a little spot in the compact cafe. As a matcha latte lover – I couldn’t resist ordering one to see if it matched up to my favourite Kin lattes. The matcha was great – but I have to say, I didn’t need it as my curry was extremely filling. Packed with flavour and chunky pieces of butternut squash, aubergine on a quinoa base meant I was extremely full by the end. My friend loved her Goof Life Salad – amazing colours on the plate and so many elements to enjoy. From the gluten free crackers to the kale, goji berries and roasted sweet potato. I wanted to order a cake for after – but I was too full! Would definitely recommend for dinner or a big hearty, vegan lunch. Would love to return to sample brunch!
SaladPride, Neals Yard
Price: £
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Best turmeric latte I’ve ever tasted!

I found SaladPride by complete and utter fluke – and I’m so glad I did! I was killing time after work and before meeting a friend when I stumbled into Neals Yard near Seven Dials, Covent Garden. It started absolutely pouring down and I sought refuge in this little cafe. As I walked in I saw the menu say turmeric latte and I knew I was onto a winner. I ordered one of those and then saw a range of small square cheesecakes in the fridge next to it – and low and behold, they were all dairy and gluten free! Despite the fact I was about to meet my friend for dinner, I ordered a chocolate hazelnut cheesecake on recommendation of a passing customer and sat down to enjoy them. The cheesecake was amazing and the turmeric latte was the best I’ve tasted. I was only in there for less than half an hour but have since discovered on twitter that the owner has written two cookbooks (Breakfast Love and Salad Love) and the cafe does a range of food from breakfast through to dinner. I will definitely be returning to taste some of that!
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